Expect to see more of Uchenna Nwosu when the Bolts hit the field against the Buffalo Bills.
The Chargers’ second-round pick saw only two defensive snaps in the season opener, largely due to the Chiefs’ personnel.
Regardless, Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley explained how the team should have found ways to get him on the field more last week.
That’s going to change in Buffalo…and you’re also going to see him more up front than at his usual linebacker spot.
“I think there were some things that we saw,” Bradley said. “As we look back at it, it's one of the things we said that we could find a way to get him on the field. We really didn't know what type of game it was going to be last week. This week, because of where we are, I think we're now having more time for him to play some defensive line. He'll still play outside linebacker, but he is spending more time (with the defensive line) so we can get him on the field more.”
While Nwosu stood out throughout the preseason at his usual linebacker role and as a rush end in passing situations, he’s expected to see a good amount of snaps at a different position – big end.
That’s the spot usually occupied by Joey Bosa, who will miss his second straight game with a bone bruise in his foot. Isaac Rochell will start at the spot once again, but Nwosu should figure into the rotation this go around.
“You're going to see a guy like Uchenna get some more reps as the defensive end in situations,” Bradley said. “He kind of divides his time up. Now this week he's spending a little more time with (Defensive Line Coach) Giff (Smith) and the defensive line. He's had a good week in practice. I think that's more probably his natural position. We knew he could rush the passer. The idea was could he also be an outside linebacker for us? I think for him where he's getting more reps is that’s probably more in his comfort level?”
While he’s been spending most of his time at OTTO and LEO, Nwosu doesn’t appear fazed one bit to now also be tasked the big end role. After all, it still allows him to do what he does best – get after the quarterback.
“Getting to the quarterback is the most exciting part of the game, man,” he said. “They love you if you can get to the quarterback, so to be able to show that and be able to go out there and do that for my teammates and my coaches, I’m looking forward to it.”
However, he did note there are numerous differences when it comes to playing big end than at OTTO and LEO.
“LEO has a lot more freedom, and I really get in as a six-technique and I have a lot more freedom to rush. As a (big end), it’s more over linemen, head up over linemen, so it’s fighting a lot more double teams and things like that. But that’s something I did a little bit in college, so it’s not like I’m new to it…(At linebacker,) I’m dropping a lot more end. My senior year of college, I didn’t do too much dropping.”
As Bradley noted, Nwosu has spent extra time with his defensive line coach, Giff Smith, to further prepare himself for his new role.
According the rookie, it couldn’t be going any better.
“It’s been great,” he said. “He’s a very positive coach. Always keeps spirits up. He’ll always keep it real with you. What you need to work on. What you need to pay attention to. Things like that. He’s a great coach. I learn a lot from him and I’m happy to keep learning from him.”
Still, Smith’s not the only one giving pointers to Nwosu.
Even back during training camp, the USC product spent as much time around Bosa as possible, picking his brain for any tips to improve his game. The hope now is those extra sessions prove invaluable as he helps fill in for the Pro Bowler against the Bills.
“(Joey) gives me all these little tips and tricks,” Nwosu said. “He’s a veteran. (A) Pro Bowl selection. Sacks, everything – he has it all. He’s done it all, so any little tips he can give me and anything I can learn from him is a great help for my game…. (Especially) pass rushing. That’s what he is; a pass rush specialist. He’s faced offensive linemen for the past two years, so he knows all their weaknesses. He can tell me what to look for, what to watch out for, tips like that.”